Ahhh, the Fourth of July. I used to love this holiday. I remember one year my brother and I made a cake that looked like a flag, which we promptly dropped as we took it out of the oven and had to mold back together with stars and stripes of icing. I remember dying deviled eggs blue and red (which really turn out more like gray and pink, but it's the thought that counts). I remember packing up blankets for a big picnic by the lake near our town where the North Carolina Symphony plays every year before the fireworks. I remember having a great time, coming back covered in mosquito bites but feeling happy and full of celebration.
Our family, although pretty political and well-read and respectful of history, were more of the "summer theme" Fourth of July fans as opposed to the die-hard patriot types. As in, the Fourth represented a family day, a summer celebration, an occasion to eat, a chance to cheer on fireworks, an excuse to get decked out in red and blue. After all, they are great colors. (Hmmm... I'm noticing distinct parallels to Christmas here.)
This makes me think about the Fourth today, in 2005, as I sit here distinctly not wearing red and blue, not making plans to see fireworks, and definitely not dying deviled eggs. This feeling of not really wanting to applaud my country is a sinking one and it makes me feel terrible. If I had kids, would I be dressing them in cute red and blue outfits, packing up a picnic basket and voting on our favorite colors and shapes of fireworks all night? I think not - these days call more for lessons on the importance of dissent. Sigh.
I want to be able to applaud and cheer tonight, to smile at old guys dressed up like Uncle Sam and kids running around with sparklers. But there's too much to be unhappy about. And I can't really cheer for the idea of our country or the founding of ideals when I know how untrue both of those things are, and particularly how subverted they are today. Especially how subverted they are today.
So maybe my problem is that I feel too knowledgable to take part in patriotic festivities tonight. And the other problem is that all of us progressives have been made to feel that if we're not in line with the Bush mantra, we're hurting our country. We hate our country. We're anti-patriots and harmful to America. We couldn't possibly represent our country or hang up a flag. Never mind that we're Americans, too.
I wonder how many other "Summer Theme" families like mine was are simply opting out this year. Maybe their insides just won't allow them to fully enjoy the fireworks because they feel that doing so means they support the very wrong direction in which our country has been taken. But then again, maybe the kids would pitch a fit if their parents proposed skipping fireworks, so there they are on blankets beside the other Fourth families, the ones who believe that Bush is America, that our country is superior to every other one on earth, and that with that superiority comes the right to destroy anyone and anything as we see fit. And as those families cheer wildly for the sheer American-ness of this loud and explosive holiday, the progressive families gulp down their discontent and hope they don't have to sing the anthem with a smile.
To me, today sums up the progressive dilemma. Is it possible anymore to successfully proclaim patriotism without feeling like that means you proclaim Republicanism, too? How can we progressives ever feel good about the flag again, good about red, white, and blue, good about this holiday, without apprehension? And how long will it take before we're welcome into the patriotic fold again - not called out as traitors or evildoers, but as Americans who want to feel good (or at least okay) about their country?
Monday, July 04, 2005